Using Technology to Defend Digital Privacy & Human Rights – Presentation Notes

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If you attended my talk “Using Technology to Defend Digital Privacy & Human Rights”, thank you! Here’s a list of supplemental material discussed during the presentation as well as where you can find out additional information about the topics covered. I’m happy to answer any questions that you might have via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Targeted attacks in Egypt

Mexico and targeted Spyware

UAE – Mansoor Discussion

Information about Pegasus Spyware

Russia Banning the Use of VPNs

China’s Great Firewall blocking VPN apps and Skype

Mass Surveillance in the United States

Educating yourself on Social Engineering and Phishing ( is a great resource)

How Signal’s Censorship Circumvention Works

More information about Tor and to download Tor Browser

How to use Pluggable Transports to bypass censorship in Tor

TAILS USB and Virtual Machine

Whonix Virtual Machine

My Recommended VPN Provider

My Recommended Secure Email Provider

Good list of “burner” mobile phones

Mobile Security Guide for Activists and Journalists

Mobile Device Security

EFFs (Electronic Frontier Foundation) – Surveillance Self-Defense Portal

If you missed this Jolt I’ll be presenting this talk again at other venues in the near future. Be sure to follow me on social media for upcoming dates.

Top 5 Attack Vectors Report: Defend It Before You Hack It

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robot-with-sheild-300x287Each year my team conducts hundreds of Penetration Tests in a wide variety of industries, ranging from Healthcare to Retail, Finance to Manufacturing, and many more. The team analyzed data collected from each of our penetration tests at SecureState since 2011 and found common themes in the methods of compromise utilized to break into organizations and compromise sensitive information. As a result, SecureState has issued a new report that expands on the attack vectors identified and suggests ways organizations can defend themselves against such attack vectors. SecureState’s 2014 Attack Vectors Report revealed the following Top 5 methods of compromise:

  1. Weak Passwords
  2. Web Management Consoles
  3. Missing Patches and System Misconfigurations
  4. Application Vulnerabilities
  5. Social Engineering

The full report is available for download on the SecureState website. I also presented a webinar (watch the replay here) with Defense team lead Robert Miller, expanding on the report’s findings and offering additional advice to organizations on how to defend against these attack vectors. I highly recommend you download this report to see where your organization stands in regards to these attack vectors.

What’s the bottom line?
The current mindset of many organizations is to only react after an attack or breach has already occurred. However, based on our findings and what the current onslaught of recent breaches have shown us, it’s clear that organizations face the same attacks month after month. Rather than be reactive, the defensive mindset needs to change to a proactive one. Consider focusing time, money and resources on your defensive controls before a penetration test occurs.

A penetration test should be your final step to ensure your defense can withstand an attack and to adjust your defenses if necessary. We’ve seen it time and time again where organizations only conduct an annual penetration test and expect that remediating tactical issues from the penetration test will improve their security posture. This needs to stop! Build and test your defensive controls first, then test to see how these controls hold up. Most of these controls are a mix of tactical and strategic, but reactively focused. By taking a proactive stance on defense, your organization will become much more secure and the time, money and resources spent will provide much more value to the business.

Defend it before you hack it.

Cross-posted from the SecureState Blog

Teaching SANS SEC542: Web App Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking in St. Louis July 8-13

Filed under Application Security, Penetration Testing
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Just a quick update to let everyone know that I’ll be teaching SANS SEC542: Web App Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking in St. Louis July 8-13th through the Community SANS program.  This is a fantastic 6 day class with lots of hands-on exercises, sharing of my real world web app testing experiences and a Capture the Flag event in which students will be able to use the methodology and techniques explored during class to find and exploit vulnerabilities within an intranet site.  I’m very excited to teach you the skills required to be a great web application penetration tester!

Check out the SANS class information page for more information about the class, agenda and location.

Save 10% on your registration using code: TomStLouis

See you in St. Louis!

Presenting at SANS 2013 in Orlando Next Week

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I’ll be at SANS 2013 in Orlando this weekend assisting Kevin Johnson with his SEC542: Web App Penetration Testing & Ethical Hacking class and giving two SANS@Night presentations:

This is a great opportunity to see Social Zombies again if you missed our talk at DerbyCon last year.  Registered attendees of SANS 2013 get into the talks for free!  If you see me at the conference next week say hi and feel free to harass Kevin if you’re taking his class! 😉

Project Mayhem to be Unleashed at Black Hat Abu Dhabi

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For the last several months I’ve been performing research on techniques attackers could use for performing accounting fraud in popular accounting systems. This research coincides with a whitepaper that SecureState has developed entitled “Cash is King: Who’s Wearing Your Crown?” To perform this research I have collaborated with a coworker of mine, Brett Kimmell, who is the manager of SecureState’s Risk Management practice. Brett and I will be presenting the findings from our research at the Black Hat security conference in Abu Dhabi on December 6. This is by far the most unique topic I’ve researched in that we’ve combined penetration testing techniques with ways to commit fraud and more importantly, showing real world accounting fraud prevention. Brett Kimmell is a CPA and has many years of experience with accounting and fraud detection. He was also the CFO for a large non-profit organization. Combine this skill set with penetration testing and cutting edge malware development and you have research that truly demonstrates attacks that literally hit the “bottom line” of a company. As a penetration tester I find that gaining access to customer data, passwords, credit cards, PHI and other standard fare (ie: Trophies) are just the beginning of what can damage a company. In this research we take it to the next level and show the damage that can be done where it truly hurts a company: the financial system. It’s my hope is that this is just the start of showing organizations’ true business risk through advanced penetration testing.

In our work we’ve focused our research on Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains (GP). GP is the most popular accounting system used by small to midsized businesses across the world. In our research we show how attackers can commit undetectable fraud by manipulating accounting systems like GP. These attacks are quite different than finding and exposing a 0-day in software, as our research is centered on creating attacks (including custom created malware) that specifically targets a company’s accounting processes. The attacks we illustrate in our research show that technical controls cannot be solely relied on to prevent fraud. Non-technical accounting controls must be implemented and proper oversight maintained to be effective in combating modern fraud.

Next week we will be releasing our whitepaper as well as “Mayhem”, which is proof-of-concept code designed to hijack and manipulate the accounting processes within Microsoft Dynamics GP. Mayhem was created by the talented Spencer McIntyre of SecureState’s Research & Innovation Team. Mayhem is actively being developed but even in its current state (which we will demonstrate at Black Hat) will make you take a hard look at how a company needs to defend against this type of threat. Similar to how banking Trojans have targeted banking consumers in recent years, Mayhem is the first type of attack that we know of that targets the accounting systems of a company. While we focus on Microsoft Dynamics GP in our research, it can be easily ported to other types of accounting systems. Stay tuned next week as we reveal details about Mayhem and how our research puts a new focus on accounting controls.

Burp Suite Series: Efficient use of Payload Options when Attacking HTTP Basic Authentication

Filed under Application Security, Penetration Testing
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In this series of blog posts I’ll be discussing some handy Burp Suite techniques we often use on our penetration tests.  Burp Suite is our de facto tool of choice for assessing web applications and conducting web based brute force attacks.  First up are some techniques to use when conducting brute force attacks on websites that use HTTP Basic Authentication.  While simple brute force attacks are easy to set up in Burp Suite (think form based authentication) not a lot of tutorials exist out there for how to brute force HTTP Basic Authentication, especially if the password is not in clear text like you might usually find it.

How HTTP Basic Authentication Works

HTTP Basic Authentication works by Base64 encoding the username and password in the HTTP header.  It looks like this in a web request:

Authorization: Basic dmljdGltQHZpY3RpbS5jb206cGFzc3dvcmQ=

Running this through Burp Suite’s decoder function (Base64 decode) gives us the following:

As you can see, the username and password are in clear text.  Not a good option for authentication since this can be easily sniffed off the wire with a network sniffer like Wireshark, which is why these credentials should ideally always be going over SSL.  Besides the clear text security issue, using HTTP Basic Authentication provides the penetration tester with a convenient way to brute force the password for users of the system or application.  Typically you will find HTTP Basic Authentication used for web access to network management devices. Also, some websites use this for authentication to their application (and that’s a whole other blog post).  I’ve recently seen more web and mobile applications using this form of authentication.

What if the Password is Hashed?

Occasionally you might encounter a situation where the authentication header does not reveal a clear text password but a hashed representation of the password.  For example, you might see this after running the Base64 string through Burp Suite’s decoder:

In this example, the password is not clear text but is an SHA1 hash of the password.  If it is a guessable password, you can easily use any type of hash lookup table like this one online to lookup this hash.  This SHA1 hash is “password”.  Hopefully that’s not your password. 🙂

Attacking HTTP Basic Authentication with Hashed Password Values

One of the attacks on a system utilizing HTTP Basic Authentication is the lovely brute force attack.  First, get yourself a password list of easily guessable passwords.  I recommend any on Ron Bowe’s website SkullSecurity, especially “500 worst” and “Rockyou”.  Next, submit a request with dummy account information and intercept the request with Burp Suite’s proxy:

At this point you want to decode the Base64 string to see if the password is plain text.  Right click the request and then “Send to Decoder”. Then select Decode As Base64 to reveal the plaintext.

The password is hashed so next find out what type of hashing is used (use a look up utility like Hash Identifier in Backtrack 5).

Once you’ve determined the hash type you can configure Burp Intruder, which will be used to actually perform the brute force attack.  Go back to the proxied request and right click “Send to Intruder”.

Press “Clear” and highlight the Base64 string with your mouse.  Press “Add”. Keep the attack type to “Sniper”. Click on the “Payloads” tab.

Under “Payload Options [Simple list]” is where you want to load your password list. Next, you will need to set your “Payload Processing” rules.  The orders of these rules are very important.  First you want a rule to hash the password using SHA.  Next, you need to add the prefix, which is the username (email) of the account you want to brute force.  Don’t forget the “:” after the username!  Lastly, we want to Base64 encode the entire payload.

Important: Ensure you uncheck the “URL-encode these characters” in the Payload Encoding section.  This will ensure any “==” or “=” from the Base64 string are not encoded in the request.

Other Considerations for More Complex Brute Force Attacks

There are several other ways we can approach this type of brute force attack on HTTP Basic Authentication.  What if you wanted to attack multiple users with one password like “Password1”.  Simply change the payload list to usernames (emails in this case) and in the Payload Processing rules, create a rule to add a suffix.  In the suffix field, add the SHA hash of Password1.  Make sure you include the “:” before the hash value. Then keep your last rule to Base64 encode the payload.  Here are a few other ideas on advanced attacks:

  • Use Burp Extender and perform custom logic to create an attack using the “Pitchfork” or “Cluster Bomb” Intruder functionality.  For example, suppose I want to do a brute force attack using different user id’s and passwords such as:

You can also create a list yourself using a Python script, then replace the payload list with this one and keep the payload processing rules we’ve already defined.

Happy Brute Forcing!

Re-posted from the SecureState Blog

Android vs. Apple iOS Security Showdown Slides

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Here are the slides from my recent webinar.  Sorry about the delay!

Free Webinar July 12th: Android vs. Apple iOS Security Showdown

Filed under Android, Apple, Mobile Applications, Mobile Security
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It’s not too late to register for my webinar on July 12th: Android vs. Apple iOS Security Showdown.  I’ll be taking a entertaining look at the current security posture of both platforms. I’ll be battling the Apple App Store vs. Google Play, device updates, MDMs, developer controls, security features and the current slew of vulnerabilities for both platforms.  Which one will emerge the victor? Register for my webinar on July 12th to find out!

SANS Mentor brings Security 542: Web App Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking (GWAPT) to Cleveland

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I’m proud to be teaching SANS Security 542 here in Cleveland through the SANS Mentor Program beginning in August.  The SANS Mentor Program allows you to save thousands on your training budget and still experience live SANS training on the GWAPT classes – live training without traveling!


Security 542: Web App Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking
Start date: Thursday August 23, class will run over 10 weeks, 6:30-8:30pm
Details and tuition visit:

Where: SecureState
23340 Miles Road
Cleveland, OH 44128

This local course will be offered in a multi-week format via the Mentor Program. Each week I will answer questions and assist you with hands on labs and exercises during the class. Mentor courses give you the opportunity to participate in SANS training without the expense and inconvenience of travel or being out of the office during the workday.

An outline of the class is as follows:

– Learn an attack methodology and how the pen-tester uses JavaScript within the test
– Study the art of reconnaissance, specifically targeted to Web applications.
– Start the discovery phase with a focus on application/server-side discovery.
– Flash objects and Java applets.
– Exploitation

The class wraps up with a Capture the Flag event where the students will be able to use the methodology and techniques explored during class to find and exploit the vulnerabilities within an intranet site.

I hope you can join me in August and earn your GWAPT Certification in 2012!

Are We Reaching Security Conference Overload?

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I saw a post from my friend Matt Neely on Twitter about how CarolinaCon and BSidesROC are on the same weekend this year. I’ve also had conversations with others earlier this week about DerbyCon (September 28-30) and GrrCon (September 27-28) being back to back as well. This is a trend that seems to be increasing every year based on the large pool of conferences out there. Not only do we have more security and hacking conferences then ever before but now there is more overlap with each other. My thought is that these choices can make it harder for researchers to present new and relevant content and also tough to decide which conferences to attend from a attendee perspective. DerbyCon was an excellent conference but I’ve also heard great things about GrrCon as well. Which conference would a speaker or attendee choose? They are also both located in the central part of the country and near large cities which makes it even more difficult for local folks to choose.

On the other hand because of Security BSides and other smaller conferences over the years more unknown speakers are getting out there. We’re also seeing more great talks and discussions then ever before because of these smaller conferences. This is a good thing for our industry. Many good talks still get rejected from the big conferences like Black Hat and this is where conferences like Security BSides really shine. However, we potentially run the risk of seeing the same speakers, same content and as Matt said we appear to have an “echo chamber problem” at all of these conferences including the big ones. Is anyone else seeing this trend? Does the overlap of multiple security conferences matter to you? Like any trend in technology are we about to bust the “Security Conference Bubble”? I often wonder what the security conference world will look like in a few years if this trend continues.